It’s never easy to face criticism, but it certainly gets harder when you’re running a business and trying to handle text-based customer communications. You put all your effort into keeping your customers happy only to discover via negative feedback that you’ve failed. But that failure isn’t the end — in truth, it’s just the beginning. In this post, we’re going to address what really matters: how you respond to it. What should your reaction be? Let’s get into it.
Focus on what you can learn
Spotting a critical comment will typically inspire a strong negative feeling. The specifics of your emotional state will depend on various factors: how new the business is, how well things are going overall, what feedback you’ve had before, how you’re feeling about yourself, etc. You might feel sad or even dejected. Most common, though, is the feeling of anger.
After all, you’ve tried your best to deliver a good service. Despite the obvious merits of business texting, plenty of companies don’t bother trying to optimize their communications, but you put thought into how you handled things — and what you get in return is criticism? Well, maybe there’s nothing wrong with your service. Maybe it’s the customer at fault. Maybe you didn’t meet their preferences because they gave you incorrect information, for instance.
Now, your defensive reaction may be reasonable: perhaps it isn’t your fault. But that’s just one part of the puzzle. The customer having made a mistake doesn’t mean it’s alright for you to be dismissive of their comments, and your objective isn’t to snap back with a harsh remark. It’s to understand what led to the negative feedback and determine what (if anything) you can change to avoid it in the future
Review the details to know the context
If you’re going to learn something (and especially if you’re going to respond to the feedback), you need to have all the details about what led to the comments. That means getting context, something that’s easy to miss but immensely important in a time of so many possible information sources and viable communications channels. Let’s consider these things in turn:
Information sources can include things like your website, your social media updates, and comments from other customers. They need to be as consistent as you can get them. If your text service is telling people that your operations are running normally but your social media accounts have acknowledged a slowdown, that’ll cause frustration (per Accenture via Customer Think, 65% of customers get frustrated by inconsistent information). Everything needs to be on the same page.
Communications channels can include things like social media messaging systems, live chat systems (perhaps using tools like Crisp.Chat for automation), phone systems, and even classic ticket-based support portals. If someone is harsh about your text system, you need to know what they’ve said to you before, and that means keeping issues tracked through a cross-channel approach.
Ensuring that you know the context of the comments will allow you to gauge what they actually signify and respond accordingly. Because yes, you typically should respond to negative feedback — though how you respond will depend on the situation. Where did the feedback appear? If you got it through your text service, you can respond directly and be straightforward — but if it came in a public forum (like a social media feed) concerning your text service, you need to consider the importance of responding publicly to protect your image.
Be careful about how you word things
When you respond to criticism, it isn’t just the meaning of what you say that matters: it’s also the form it takes. In general, it’s inadvisable to use informal language when addressing negative feedback. Why? Because it implies that you’re not taking the issue seriously. Informality signals calmness and frivolity, and learning that your service isn’t delivering everything your customers want should push you to improve, not to be glib.
There are also many small considerations you mustn't forget. Take something like matching terms, for instance. If a customer issues feedback using certain terms, you must think carefully before using different terms when you reply. This can come across as an effort to correct them — and that’s obviously going to have terrible results. You can swap a generic term out for a specific one to show that you have the details (using “text” after the customer used “message”, for instance), but that’s about as far as you should go.
If the customer is consistently informal with their terms, you need to decide how much you should take their lead (using mirroring, as Mission Translate puts it). Sticking with formality when they’re seemingly trying to get you to loosen up isn’t the best idea, but it might be an effort to get you to break character (so to speak) and send an unprofessional response that they can use to attack you. There’s no hard-and-fast rule about this. All you can do is try your best.
Triple-check every message before sending
Lastly, the importance of checking your messages before sending them can’t be stressed enough. Even something as trivial-seeming as a typo can make you look wholly incompetent (or simply indifferent), and a major mistake like getting a customer’s name wrong can snowball into a barrage of social-media criticism. It’s good to respond promptly, yes, but don’t let the urge to jump on feedback push you to get sloppy.
You should be using spell-checkers and other automation elements wherever possible. Having access to complex text-system APIs means you should never be issuing responses directly from phones (with their frequently-errant keyboards). Instead, you should be sending them from a regular computer. The more elements you remove from your manual workload, the better. Your role should be to monitor things, choose from predefined elements, and use your reading of the context to steer things as needed.
In the end, getting negative feedback on your text marketing and customer service isn’t likely to be disastrous, so don’t overreact. Focus on what you can learn from the comments, research what prompted them, and prepare some carefully-formed responses to attempt to turn things around. Good luck.
Rodney Laws is an ecommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.